Monthly Archives: July 2016

The sculptures of Cornelia Parker

19 July 2016

I was watching TV and chanced upon a trailer for an upcoming BBC programme about artist Cornelian Parker. The similarities between her “suspended sculptures” and the effect I had hoped to achieve with my final piece for Assignment 5 were striking. Parker works with fragmentation and the arrangement of found objects in 3D or 2D space. Her sculptures are site specific installations using space and light to create a feeling of movement frozen in time. 

Examples include the 3D piece “Hanging fire (suspected arson) (1999)” in which Parker arranges actual pieces of charcoal from an arson attack. In the piece, the charcoal fragments are arranged to form a pattern reminiscent of fragments of shrapnel dispersing during an explosion, suspended a few inches from the floor and extending to the ceiling, they are fixed using wire, pins and nails. The occupies the space of a rectangular cube 144x60x72 inches.

A second example, and perhaps the most famous of her sculptures of this series, is “Cold dark matter: an exploded view” (1991) . This piece similarly occupies a large 3D space and consists of the suspended fragments of a blown up shed – it is as if the explosion is suspended in a moment in time – there is order in the size of the pieces and the distance they have travelled from the point of detonation. Also there are changes in their density (closeness together) as they eye moves further from the detonation point. What I particularly like about the image in the link I have included, is the lighting; each fragment is duplicated several times as shadows. Of course, each shadow is different, and distorted from the original shape, so whilst there is a degree of unity, there is also diversity. Tonal variations in shadows give further interest.

This photograph of the shadows created by my final piece was taken in natural sunlight. I’m sure it would be possible to make even more interesting shapes and tones in a gallery setting using multi-directional spotlights, as has been achieved with Cornelia Parker’s suspended sculptures.


Personal project – Reflective commentary

9 July 2016


Textiles 1: Exploring ideas, Assignment 5 – Personal project

Reflective commentary


Working through this assignment has been an extremely positive experience. I started by  reviewing my sketchbook work and sampling, looking for successful techniques and outcomes, and seeking those with the greatest potential for development. Seeing all my work together helped to pinpoint which are the most fruitful approaches to developing ideas.

I find that sketchbook work is an especially effective way of stimulating my creativity. Drawing using different media, making models and abstracting ideas, establishing links with other artist’s work and my own work from previous assignments. For this assignment, I made a dedicated sketchbook on the theme of ‘trees’ which references and expands on the concepts of assignment 4 (reveal and conceal). It gave me a firm foundation and point of reference as I worked through my personal project. As a consequence, I felt much more secure in the process and confident in my selections as I moved through each stage of sampling.

I have been surprised by the amount of synergy between the work which I have done to date (both practical and contextual), and this project. It feels as if the visual vocabulary which I have been developing is finally starting to behave like pieces in a jigsaw and coming together to form an overall picture. 

At no time in the assignment did I feel ‘lost’ or ‘lacking direction’. This is in measured contrast with a year ago when I was completing my personal project for Textiles 1: A creative approach. Then (I now realise), I was experimenting rather than sampling, concentrating on technique and technical skills rather than visual outcomes. Consequently, I had not done enough sampling to lead and focus my attention towards a finished piece.

The biggest difficulty I encountered with this assignment was having to make the final piece without being able to test all my ideas thoroughly through sampling. This was because my early samples were comparatively small, so it was not possible to test the colour interactions and composition due to difference of scale. In the event, I used a combination of sketching, further sampling and informed trial and error (i.e. I drew from my knowledge and experience to determine approaches which might improve the rhythm, tension and dynamics). I am pleased with the outcome of the project, if not somewhat surprised that it works better against a black background under natural outdoor lighting than against a white background under artificial lighting (i.e. in a gallery setting), as I had originally envisaged.

On 25 June, I attended a study visit at the Sainsbury’s centre for the visual arts. The exhibition: “Giacometti: A line through time” charted the life, art and influences of Giacometti and also, interestingly, work by artists who were influenced by him, including Elizabeth Frink, Francis Bacon, and William Turnbull. A particular aspect of his work which I am keen to read across into my own practice is the use of asymmetric placement and negative space to suggest tension.


Personal project, Assignment 5 questions

10 July 2016

This blog entry records my responses to the following course note questions: 


1. Can you see a clear line of progression from source material through to finished piece? Was there enough information in your source material to stimulate your imagination and sustain your enthusiasm?

This experience has been so much better than the final project I did for Textiles 1: A creative approach. I have understood and followed a process which has given me a firm foundation, confidence, and a series of samples to draw from and fall back on when work didn’t go to plan. I can actually see a clear line of progression and I am very pleased with how much easier it has been for me to made decisions at each stage.

I elected to make a new sketchbook for this assignment. This was because although I wanted to use ideas from ‘reveal and conceal’, I felt that my assignment 4 sketchbooks were not sufficiently targeted. By developing a new sketchbook dedicated to the theme of trees, I was able to make a truly coherent set of related drawings, analogies, experiments and samples. Unlike samples I had made in assignment 4, I felt able to pick from, and use them together because they were all related to theme. This gave me plenty of source material.



2. Do you feel you made the right choices and decisions when selecting at each stage of the project? If not what would you change and how would it alter the outcome?


I do feel that I made the correct decisions. However, it was difficult to have to put aside promising samples at stage 3 because they didn’t fit with the focus of the work that I wanted to take forward. In particular I am thinking about the core-spun wire (sample FP7 below).


The only decision that I might wish to reconsider is the colour that I painted the frame. In my initial thinking the frame was to be insignificant (merely a support to hold the fishing line vertical threads, which I envisaged being attached floor to ceiling in and art gallery installation). However, as I was making the piece and photographing it in different settings it became apparent that it worked best against a dark (black) background. In this case, to make the frame ‘disappear’ (or blend into the background) it would have been better to paint in matt black. In the event, I quite like the framed piece and the fact that it has analogies with a window pane and broken glass. It would be easy to cut out pieces of coloured card to ‘test’ the effect of different coloured frames, or ‘crop’ out the frame using photo-editing software to simulate the effect of no frame. 


3. Are there more ideas you would like to pursue that have come out of this project? Are they similar in feeling to the direction you took, or different? Note them down for future reference


There are several ideas which I would like to follow up as a result of work done on this project. Some are early in the project, for example sketchbook work in which I designed a fabric pattern (see below)

I would like to make this design suitable into a repeating pattern and then obtain samples printed onto sheer fabric. The idea, if successful would be to make scarves which I could sell. Perhaps a soft pink and orange colour-way could be explored as an alternative too?

I have already done more work on sample FP7, by making my own batt and core-spinning a longer length of wire.


The photos below show the sample arranged in different configurations on white card:

I find the shadows and negative spaces very appealing, as are the different forms into which the sample can be arranged. It would be interesting to take the idea further by contrasting with thin or smooth threads, and exploring how the sample could be wrapped around objects, so as to interact and form a visual relationship with them. 

Finally, from the idea of using oak leaf shapes. Although these shapes did not give the best visual outcome for my final project, I feel that there is merit in taking the concept further and in a slightly different direction.

My photograph reminds me of botanical specimens, or taxidermy (such a Damien Hirst’s ‘Last Kingdom‘), in which superficially identical (but subtly different) animate or botanical objects are arranged in rows or columns of the the same species.

There is scope for developing the idea of a ‘display case’, drawing on the idea of how each object is subtly different and none are perfect. It could be referenced to topics such as identity, how disability is viewed by society, and stereotyping based on gender, race or nationality.


4. Which stage did you find the most exciting? Which stage was the most arduous and difficult to get through?


Although demanding, I find sketchbook work the most exciting. It is at this stage where I feel the most freedom and a huge amount of excitement as ideas often generate unexpected results and a completely new direction.

For this project I found stage 6 ‘planning and making the final piece’ the most demanding and stressful. Although I had made several small samples, because these were only 9″x12″, it was not possible to test how my idea would work on a large scale other than just trying it out on the large frame (30″x42″). In the event, I had to supplement my work with more sampling and think long and hard about the best way to introduce excitement, tension and rhythm. Not knowing if I was going to be able to achieve a good outcome was stressful.


5. Do you like your finished textile? What are it’s strengths and weaknesses?


I do like my finished piece. I think it’s strengths are it’s feeling of depth and three-dimensionality. It’s weakness is that it’s visual effectiveness is very dependant upon the configuration (light and background) in which it is viewed. Whilst this might not be a disadvantage if it were a fixed installation, as a student it is difficult knowing that assessors will not be able to view my work in the conditions that I would like it to be presented.

Personal project, Stage 6 – Planning and making a finished piece

9 July 2016

The idea that I chose to take forward from stage 5 was sample FP23. I envisage it being worked into a large floor to ceiling installation, several metres wide, either against the white wall of a gallery, or perhaps with a floor-ceiling glass wall (for example, the Longside gallery at the Yorkshire sculpture park). I consider it as a conceptual piece of abstract art drawing very much on the work of the impressionist painters, in particular Monet and his oil on canvess painting “View of the lilypond with willow” (c. 1917-19). My aim was to capture the vibrancy of their colour pallete, the suggestion of leaves; curled, rolled surfaces being struck at different angles by light and reflecting it back.

As it is not possible to submit a site-specific installation for my final piece, I decided to make a large sample, similar to one which I would present to a gallery if I were being asked to pitch for a space to display my work. My samples from stage 5 (being only 9″x12″) are not large enough to convincingly “sell” such an idea. I need a large sample to allow me to explore distinct areas of depth, shadow and light, and to investigate how colours could me made to move and transition across a large surface. I decided to use a 30″x42″ a large canvass stretcher frame. 

The frame was natural pine, and considering what colour to paint it was tricky. Ideally, I would want it to ‘blend’ into the background as much as possible, because I don’t envisage it being part of the finished conceptual piece. Assuming that gallery walls are usually white, I painted it a flat matt white.

I started to produce my laminate sheets which I would use to make my ‘cut pieces’. As before I used combinations of different papers (newspaper painted with acrylic, handmade tissue or various colours and weight), commercial yarn, handspun yarn and fibre. The fibre was Southdown and Teesdale tops which I had previously hand-dyed.

I produce different ‘colour families’ of laminated pieces:

I then started to string them onto fishing line and built up patches of colour (this time clear fishing line, to give an even better impression of the pieces being suspended in space). As well as the glossy laminate cut-outs, I used similarly shaped pieces of charcoal-grey felt to give a contrast of texture (the felt being very matt, not reflective and completely opaque).

When I reached the stage shown in the photo below, I felt that I had gone as far as I could with the materials I was using. The piece lacked excitement. It lacked rhythm and tension. It was altogether rather bland. 

Had I not been studying for a textile degree I might have been tempted to bin the idea and give up, but that was not an option. The investment I had made in sketchbook work and sampling led me to believe that this idea could be made to work. 

Firstly, I thought about how I could inject some excitement into the piece. I was pleased with the way that the dark areas were starting to look like leaves in shadow, but there were no attention-grabbing accents.

I thought about using bright turquoise feathers (see below). Although the colour accent worked. I did not feel they were right because they were easily recognisable as feathers, and did not fit with the theme.


My next thought was that the piece might need a more radical contrast of texture and shape. I had purchased some coarse woven tape, which I planned on painting with acrylic paint and cutting into pieces.


SAMPLE FP25: Painted and stitched tape samples

Painting the fabric tape with acrylic paint had the additional desirable effect of stiffening the fabric, making it formable. I introduced some interesting folds and curves. I also stitched along the crease of one of the pieces with fluorescent yellow yarn to give it added impact.



You will see in the photo below how I initially places samples FP25 in the piece to test their effectiveness. I also tried a ball shape made of out scrunched newspaper wrapped with the fluorescent yellow yarn (bottom right).

I definately didn’t like the ball shape. I was less certain about samples FP25. 

My next thought was to look at the bright (fluorescent) yellow commercial yarn that I had used together with other fibres and paper. This time I made a gloss laminate purely consisting of pieces of this yarn (below).

SAMPLE FP26: Gloss laminate of fluorescent yellow commercial yarn


I also thought about how I might use small pieces of this laminate to introduce rhymn, unity and movement. I printed out a photo of my work and marked it up using yellow felt-tip. I felt that I diagonal sweep from bottom right to left might work (see below):


So next I introduced small pieces of fluorescent yellow laminate using my plan.

My inital feeling was that the small yellow pieces added depth, movement, and unity across the piece, which I really liked.


I then thought about contrasts of scale. Using sample FP26 I cut out much larger pieces in similar shapes to the small ones. I tried these in combination with the painted fabric tape and strips of paper, in many different combinations, one of which is shown below (clothes pegs used as a temporary means of attachment):

I felt that the piece was at last starting to work, but I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the strips. I hoped they might be analogous to shafts of light dissecting through the leaf canopy, but in the event they somehow seemed to disrupt the pattern and confuse and interrupt the rythmn. I decided to disgard samples FP25.

I did, however like the contrast between the larger and smaller pieces, so decided to pursue this idea. I found some fluorescent yellow lace in the fabric shop, so decided to laminate this, together with the flourescent yellow yarns using both glossy and matt laminating pouches:


SAMPLE FP27, FP28, FP29: Flourescent yellow laminated samples


Compared with the gloss laminating pouches, the matt ones attenuated the brightness of the yellow, making it appear softer and more gentle on the eye. The same can be said of the laminated lace compared with the laminated yarn. These samples gave me four graduations of brightness of the same colour.

I then also used my painted paper strips with the matt laminating pouches:


SAMPLE FP30: Painted paper strips, matt laminating pouch


I particularly like this sample because the pouch itself provides a degree of opacity which the gloss pouches do not, so they add to the feeling of filtered light and looking through shadow.

You will note from the matt laminated samples, that most bear concertina-type folds due to getting jammed in the laminating machine. I actually quite like this effect, however eventually, repeated use of fabric which melted onto the rollers caused the laminator to become unserviceable and unrepairable. I have since discovered on Facebook OCA forums that other textile students simply use an iron to fuse the pouches, with protection of baking parchment.

Finally, I also made cut large pieces from laminated Southdown hand-dyed fibre and incorporated these.


My final piece: 

Below is the configuration which I finally settled on, photographed indoors against a white wall. I feel that the picure does not do the piece justice because it does not capture the brightness of the flourescent yellow colour, nor it’s depth and three-dimensionality.


Disappointed with this image, I took my piece outdoor and photographed it in different settings in natural light.


1. From indoors looking out against patio glass door


The shapes are very clear, but there is some loss of colour differentiation between the more opaque pieces. Although the backdrop is rather busy, I actually quite like it. There is intrigue about looking at a view which is partially obscured.

2. With a white bathroom towel behind, outdoors in sunlight

The shadows are lovely but the white background does not show off the flourescent yellow to best advantage.


3. Outdoors, I n bright sunlight against a brick wall

I really like this setting because the shadows are lovely (although the brickwork is rather ugly). They colours and shapes show up very well against this background.


4. Outdoors, against a backdrop of red flowers

I like this setting. I feel that the flowers somewhat confuse the piece. There is a lot of intrigue and depth and the red colour of the busy lizzies adds an interesting new dimension.


5. Outdoor, against a backdrop of foliage and a black fence

This final configuration is my favourite. It shows depth, empathy with it’s surroundings, and the colours are well represented photographically. Although there are no shadows, I feel that the influence of the background on the overall visual success is stronger.


The matt laminate paper pieces look like shards of stained glass and the yellow and blue appear vibrant and lively against the black background. The flourescent yellow is neither over dominant nor too harsh. There is an interesting interplay between negative space and the shapes, some of which are transparent or semi transparent. It almost looks like a shattered pain of coloured glass.

From garden design I know that painting a fence black helps to make it feel as though it is receding into the background, making the garden space seem bigger. Had I known that my piece woud look best in this setting I would may have chosen to paint the my wooden frame a different colour. 

By cropping the photo with editing software it is possible to get an impression of what the work might look like without a frame (see below)

However, the act of cropping actually frames the image too! In the event I quite like the fact that the image is framed because it reminds me of a window pane. It is worth noting that a frame or cropped image will exert an influence on the viewers expectations of ‘composition’.



1. Initially, I thought that this piece would work well scaled up as a floor to ceiling installation against a white gallery wall. The process of my making and photographing the piece has made my think of it differently. 

2. My piece really comes to life when viewed outdoors, adjacent to foliage, in natural light and with a dark backdrop.

3. The piece would make excellent a temporary outdoor site specific installation (it may need some protection from rain).





Giacometti study visit 23 June 2016

23 June 2016

The study visit took place at the Sainsbury’s Centre for the Visual Arts in Norwich. The tutor was Hayley Lock.

The exhibition, entitled “Giacometti: A Line through time”, explores the impact of Giacometti on his own generation, especially British artists, and coincides with the 50th anniversary of his death.

Giacometti was born in Switzerland in 1901 into a family of artists. When he moved to Paris in 1912, he quickly settled into the arts scene and cafe culture. He became one of the most important and distinctive artists of the 20th century, whose work includes drawing, painting, printing, and of course sculpture.

For the pieces which I would like to discuss from the visit, I have chosen once piece by Giacometti, and two inspired by Giacometti.

Man crossing a square (1949) 

This piece is a sculpture made by Giacometti, and owned by the Alberto Giacometti Foundation, Zurich. It was made in 1949, in Giacometti’s studio in Paris, shortly after the end of WWII. The period is significant, because there were still economic difficulties and a sense of anxiety, pessimism and nihilism due to post-war trauma, which led to a fundamental re-evaluation of the depiction of the human figure, meaning and representation (1). Cast in bronze, this three-dimensional figurative sculpture is one of an edition of 6 (2).

In “Man crossing a square” there is an air of man’s fragile existence in the almost painfully thin, elongated limbs and the fragility of the casting, which appears barely thick enough to hold together in places. In common with almost all Giacometti’s male sculpture figures, the man is engaged in activity (walking). However, there is an feeling of the figure being frozen in space and time and is a sense of determination which can be gleaned by the figure’s posture, because the head is upright and he is looking straight ahead. In common with other similar works, it is believed that the walking man is the artist’s self portrait (2).

The sculpture was inspired by the elongated figures of Etruscan art created between the 9th and 2nd century BC, which affected Giacometti both stylistically and emotionally (1). Perhaps relating to the emaciated figures emerging from the concentration camps, both physically and psychologically, the sculpture suggests isolation and reflection. Whilst the limbs and torso appear thin and vulnerable, the hands and feet are disproportionately large, which draws attention to them. Perhaps intentionally, this gives the figure a distorted perspective suggestive of a shadow-like appearance, again indicative of fragility and vulnerability.

The relationship between the figure and the plinth on which it stands is also important. The space that the figure occupies is not central, and he is walking diagonally, which gives a feeling of tension. The size of the plinth relative to the figure is overwhelming, again emphasising it’s fragility. Because the limbs are so thin, the negative space between the legs and arms and torso take on a special significance. In contrast with the body, which is loosely defined, the face shows minute and precise detail, which enables the facial features to be discerned. What I love about this sculpture is that in common with Henry Moore’s bronzes it looks completely different depending from what direction and angle it is viewed.

In common with Giacometti’s bronze sculptures of this period, the surface is rough and textured. Giacometti was known to work intensely for many hours, fashioning clay models from which moulds would be made. He used his fingers and thumbs to remove material, so there is a feeling of intimacy and connection with the artist.

In the exhibition, the sculpture was placed inside a glass case (probably for protection and security reasons. Whilst this detracted somewhat from appreciation of the surface texture, it contained and constrained the sculpture in a way not dissimilar to the open cast bronze cage in one of Giacometti’s other sculptures, “The cage” (first version), 1950, also in the exhibition.


Study of a nude (1952-3)

“Study of a nude” is an oil on canvas painting (59.7×49.5cm) by Francis Bacon, and is housed in the permanent collection of Sainsbury’s Centre for the Visual Arts.

The painting shows a solitary male figure, viewed from behind and appearing to stand on the edge of an open-sided box, or space frame. Although attributed as “a device of Bacon’s own invention” (3), the space frame and the composition of the painting owe much with Giacometti’s sculpture “The cage” (first version). Indeed, from 1962, the artists met frequently to exchange ideas, both Giacometti and Bacon believing that the closest representation of actual fact could be obtained if an artist strived ‘to give the nearest possible sensation to that felt at the sight of the subject’ (1). The study of this single figure contained within a space frame box in isolation and of undefinable scale shares many of the themes of Giacometti’s post-war work, which also asserts that what appears to be small may in fact be monumental (1). The space frame is a theme which appears in many of Bacon’s work including “Pope I” (1951), Marching figures (1952) and “Figures in a landscapes” (1956).

In common with many of Bacon’s works, “Study of a nude” is dominated by a dark background, against which the pale figure and white space frame seem to project. The source of the figure is the photography of Eadweard Muybridge and his book of “The human figure in motion” (1887). The muscularity of the figure shows the influence of Michelangelo. Also in common with “The cage” (first version), the figure is placed centrally, but on the edge of the frame, feet arched and arms raised, as if ready to dive into the abyss.


Figure (1954) 

I wanted to mention briefly, this sketch by William Turnbull which I found especially interesting. I have not been able to find out much  about this drawing, nor a link to a photograph. However, I did make my own sketch which is shown below:

This sketch clearly references Giacometti’s figure sculptures with oversized, paddle-like hands. Like his sculptures it alludes to detail on the face and very little visual information available for the rest of the body. I find the contrast between the vaguery of line in some areas compared with detail and intensity in others very engaging. Whilst I am drawn to search for features in the tangled lines shrouding the face, I am simultaneously forced to interpret the ‘missing’ lines from the body and arms. This way the sketch appears both ghostly and transient, intense and menacing.



There are many aspects of Giacometti’s work which can be read across into my own practice. His use of asymmetric placement and negative space to suggest tension, the accentuation of specific features to draw attention to them, his reference to art forms from different times in history and culture, and his use of grids and space to suggest a moment frozen in time.

In addition there is a valuable lesson about self-belief. Giacometti famously kept reworking his pieces, insisting that they were unfinished, resulting in a reluctance to make them available to potential purchasers. Luckily, Lisa and Robert Sainsbury were insistent, and managed to gain his confidence and and acquire work for their collection.



1. Sainsbury’s centre for the visual arts (2016) Giacometti: A line through time. London. Bloomsbury.

2. Southerby’s (2007) Description:Homme travers ant use place par un matin de soleil. Online. Available from: [Accessed 28 June 2016]

3. Sainsbury’s centre for the visual arts (2015) Francis Bacon and the masters. London. Fontanka.